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Wisconsin Recall Elections Coming Down to the Wire

7:30 AM, Aug 6, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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The next closest race is Alberta Darling's district north of Milwaukee. Democratic polls show her ahead by just a couple points. She won with 50.5% of the vote in 2008, but Walker and Prosser had strong performances there. Democratic polls show Republicans Sheila Harsdorf and Robert Cowles faring slightly better than Darling, and Republicans say they're feeling confident about both races. There's also a chance that Republicans could pick up a Democratic seat on August 16, when Democratic incumbent Jim Holperin faces Jane Simac, a Republican who is a little rough around the edges but within striking distance. 

What does it all mean if Democrats take back the senate? Looking at the unprecedented amount of money being spent, you'd think they'd gain a lot. (Total spending on the races may top $40 million when it's all said and done.) But, with a Republican assembly and governor, they won't succeed in repealing any legislation that Walker has signed. Recently passed Republican laws--including tort, budget, tax, and education reform, as well as pro-gun and pro-life measures--won't go anywhere if the Democrats take over the senate.

In terms of policy, then, the outcome of the supreme court election on April 5 was much more important than Tuesday's senate recall elections. Had conservative David Prosser not narrowly won by 7,000 votes, the court would have swung to a 4-3 liberal majority. The court may have ended up invalidating the collective bargaining law as well as other parts of the GOP agenda.

But a victory on Tuesday would still be significant for Democrats and the unions. It would serve as a warning shot to Republicans in other states contemplating the reforms Walker enacted. And it could give the Democrats momentum heading into a 2012 recall election against Walker himself. Democrats are expected to try to submit their recall petitions at such a time so that Walker's election coincides with the 2012 presidential election. The likely challenger? Former U.S. senator Russ Feingold. A formidable opponent, to be sure, Feingold lost in the 2010 GOP wave by just five points. He's clearly still interested in politics, and nothing would do more to set him up for a presidential run in 2016 than being the man who beat Scott Walker. As Feingold told a crowd of protesters in Madison earlier this year: "The game's not over until we win."

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